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Thread: Does the UK Labour Party have an antisemitism problem?

  1. #1

    Default Does the UK Labour Party have an antisemitism problem?

    This issue has been simmering for a long while, but it has raised its ugly head in a number of contexts in recent months. Most recently, there was the whole mess with Naz Shah's deeply unwise social media postings (and her subsequent 'sorry not sorry'), Rupa Huq's comically insensitive response, Jeremy Corbyn's lackluster management and rudderless leadership, and Ken Livingstone's utter idiocy. There have been other incidents in the past that suggest this is not an isolated incident (Bob Campbell's ridiculous assertion about Israel and IS for one), and it's frankly not that surprising - on the hard left of politics, there's plenty of conspiracy theories and fear mongering that blend strident anti-Zionism with virulent antisemitism (the right has its own issues in this regard, as well). What's interesting is how poorly the Labour party has been addressing the issue, and how much of this seems to pit the 'establishment' party (who generally wouldn't dream of using this kind of rhetoric) against grassroots insurgents and the fringe (including, for now, Labour's leader). And to an extent Shah is part of the establishment - certainly she is far more palatable to Labour (and the UK in general) than the previous MP from her district, George Galloway.

    Part of me suspects that this is a tempest in a teapot - just a political attack on a vulnerable and poorly led Labour, while the vast bulk of the party and its supporters don't share these views. However, I was hoping to hear from some of the Brits here - do you think this is representative of a real (albeit minority) view in the party? How should the party address this?
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  2. #2
    Resiste et Mords! Steely Glint's Avatar
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    It doesn't have an antisemitism problem, it has an idiot problem. It's not like these people go around repeating blood libels or asserting that the world is controlled by a Jewish cabal, they only make these remarks in the context of attacking Israel, they just haven't mastered the rhetorical trick of doing some without making some childish comparison to the holocaust or the nazis or whatever, because they're idiots.
    If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.

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    Senior Member earthJoker's Avatar
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    Some background for the people not following the story


    I don't think that it is only Labour, I think it's a main problem in many European left parties.
    "Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen." - Helmut Schmidt

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    It doesn't have an antisemitism problem, it has an idiot problem. It's not like these people go around repeating blood libels or asserting that the world is controlled by a Jewish cabal, they only make these remarks in the context of attacking Israel, they just haven't mastered the rhetorical trick of doing some without making some childish comparison to the holocaust or the nazis or whatever, because they're idiots.
    Except, for some of them, they do. The aforementioned case of Bob Campbell is one (IS attacks are false flag operations by Israel, essentially), and others talk about how 'Zionists' control the media (as in the current NUS head, though I'll recognize it's not officially a part of Labour). Even Livingstone crept into this territory when he was poo-pooing the response as part of the Israel lobby (and, by implication, their control of media and public discourse) trying to deligitimize criticism of Israel. This kind of rhetoric reeks of antisemitism, even if you technically need to substitute 'Jewish' for 'Zionist' in their statements for it to actually sound as horrendous as it is. We all know that much of this is just old canards dressed up in anti-Zionist clothing - legitimate criticism of Israel generally doesn't call for ethnic cleansing.

    I strongly suspect that much of this is in fact idiocy as you suggest. But I find it concerning that such lazy thinking allows clearly antisemitic tropes to be repeated - it suggests that they are near to hand in their social circles, even if an honest bit of introspection and thought about an issue would cause them to reject the antisemitic implications of their own words.

    I have no doubt that Naz Shah is probably a decent person, and I'm sure she doesn't actually advocate ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel. But the fact that she's willing to even discuss it, even offhand, is concerning. This kind of sentiment in the BDS/etc. world is rampant and it's a real issue. Normalizing this sort of discourse is how very evil actions become acceptable.

    edit: My point isn't that most MPs in the party are antisemitic, but that the party activitists/grassroots that support them might be. E.g. the awful comments of Aysegul Gurbuz and Vicki Kirby, or the allegations about the culture at the OULC. These aren't isolated incidents any more, but I don't know if this has always existed and is a narrative built to attack Corbyn, or if this is a new and troubling trend.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

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    Resiste et Mords! Steely Glint's Avatar
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    But I find it concerning that such lazy thinking allows clearly antisemitic tropes to be repeated - it suggests that they are near to hand in their social circles, even if an honest bit of introspection and thought about an issue would cause them to reject the antisemitic implications of their own words.
    Yeah, that's a legitimate point. Anyone keeping an eye on the whole mess that certain sections (the chans, reddit) of internet culture have descended into will observe how quickly and easily """"ironically"""" being sexist or racist can transition into actually being sexist and racist. I see no reason why a similar process wouldn't be at work when you start to creep into antisemitism territory in your desire to deploy the most incendiary rheotric possible at Israel.

    Maybe the Labour party should do a guide on how be critical of Israel without being an antisemite. Like, "Israeli responses to terrorist attacks are often wildly disproportionate and their heavy handed treatment of Palestinians is a large part of why they face such attacks in the first place" < big green tick, "JEWS IS THE REAL NAZIS!!!11111!1!" < large red cross
    If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.

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    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Steely, how do you explain the NUS election results? It seems to me that anti-Semitism is entirely acceptable on the activist left.
    Hope is the denial of reality

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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Steely, how do you explain the NUS election results? It seems to me that anti-Semitism is entirely acceptable on the activist left.
    They call it anti-zionism, but as far as I am concerned it's frothing at the mouth racism. I think you can see it with the left all over Europe to a certain extent, but especially in the UK it seems more salonfähig as the Germans call it. I guess it's partially due to the left cosying up to the new muslim underclass.
    Greece shows us that there is a kind of politician worse than the ones that break their election promises; the ones that keep their election promises.

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    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    I'm not sure we should expect people to not be people just because they have their political/ideological homes somewhere on the left of the spectrum. I'm largely with Steely on this one, because his explanation explains not only anti-semitic rhetoric on the left but also similar rhetoric (directed towards other groups) among conservatives, authoritarians and old-fashioned xenophobes here in Sweden. I hope, though, that, if these people were asked if they advocate ethnic cleansing, some of them would be given some pause.
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    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Don't think so. They associate Israel with Jews, and Jews with America. Their politics demands hating America and Israel. Not hard to see how that extends to hating Jews. You don't have to go further than the Middle East to see this exact mentality, and it's not a coincidence when the European activist leftist is adopting those same grievances.
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    Senior Member earthJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    I hope, though, that, if these people were asked if they advocate ethnic cleansing, some of them would be given some pause.
    Why should they? The are fighting for the right side, they are the good!
    "Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen." - Helmut Schmidt

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    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Because I believe most western people who know what ethnic cleansing is tend to think it's a bad thing. Granted many may be more inclined to distinguish between forced removal and genocide when they believe the target group doesn't belong there to begin with, ie. that it's justified for reasons x y z but even then my experience (limited and anecdotal obv) has been that questioning such views can, when it comes from within the ranks, give pause. Obviously not when everyone's emotional and angry which may in the case of the fringe (esp that part of it filled with dirty Muslims) be most of the time.
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    Senior Member earthJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    Because I believe most western people who know what ethnic cleansing is tend to think it's a bad thing. Granted many may be more inclined to distinguish between forced removal and genocide when they believe the target group doesn't belong there to begin with, ie. that it's justified for reasons x y z but even then my experience (limited and anecdotal obv) has been that questioning such views can, when it comes from within the ranks, give pause.
    My experience differ. Usually they start to become even more creative in the explanation why they are morally superior and everything is just for the greater good, and we are just to brainwashed by western media not to understand the need.
    Obviously not when everyone's emotional and angry which may in the case of the fringe (esp that part of it filled with dirty Muslims) be most of the time.
    This has nothing to do with anger, as in being in the heat of the moment. It is a continuous feeling of moral superiority coupled with a grief against the "injustice of the world".
    "Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen." - Helmut Schmidt

  13. #13
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    I'm sorry, I have no explanation for why your experiences differ from mine. Chalk it down to injustice
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    Senior Member earthJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    I'm sorry, I have no explanation for why your experiences differ from mine.
    Maybe because anecdotal evidence doesn't work?
    "Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen." - Helmut Schmidt

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    Resiste et Mords! Steely Glint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Steely, how do you explain the NUS election results? It seems to me that anti-Semitism is entirely acceptable on the activist left.
    I thought we were talking about the Labour party?
    If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.

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    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Are we pretending the two aren't connected and that the NUS isn't a a stepping stone for future Labour positions?
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    Senior Member RandBlade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    It doesn't have an antisemitism problem, it has an idiot problem. It's not like these people go around repeating blood libels or asserting that the world is controlled by a Jewish cabal, they only make these remarks in the context of attacking Israel, they just haven't mastered the rhetorical trick of doing some without making some childish comparison to the holocaust or the nazis or whatever, because they're idiots.
    I think it has both. Antisemitism is very real on the left and especially at the NUS etc (as was the case not just now but when I was a representative at the NUS for my University in 2003 - that was a real eye opener).

    For many anti-Israel, anti-Americanism and antisemitism all roll into one hatred. Anti-Americanism can be just as big a factor as anti-Israeli though. It is a peg on which other hatreds can flow.
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    Being upset is understandable, but be upset at yourself for poor planning, not at the world by acting like a spoiled bitch during an interview.

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    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by earthJoker View Post
    Maybe because anecdotal evidence doesn't work?
    Work for what?
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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    Senior Member earthJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    Work for what?
    Your argument.
    "Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen." - Helmut Schmidt

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    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    I did say from the outset that it was anecdotal and it was in response to your and Loki's sweeping oversimplified generalizations based on other anecdata. I'll confess I can think of many possible explanations for why our experiences may differ, I just didn't want to hurt your feelings. .
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Your "idiot" explanation doesn't explain how these so-called idiots keep on getting elected to important activist positions.
    Hope is the denial of reality

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    Senior Member RandBlade's Avatar
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    That is answered by the simple fact that yes the Labour Party does have a problem.

    The Labour Party has a problem for three main reasons, in no particular order:

    1: Old fashioned antisemitism - WWC racism. Probably least important.
    2: Anti-Americanism/Anti-Israel/Anti-West/Anti-Capitalism - Can't back the USSR anymore so Israel and America have taken the proxy of the totem rallying call. For a long time (and probably still) most important.
    3: Pandering to the so-called "Islamic community". A lot of Muslim preachers and their flock hate Jews for reasons not entirely unrelated to the above. The Labour Party has been cultivating and pandering to the votes of so-called "Community Leaders" who are virulently racist and turning a blind eye to anti-semitism as any criticism of these radicals is immediately condemned as racism. See also growing sexism and homophobia in the Party - eg the Labour Party holding gender segregated rallies so that men and women are segregated at meetings during the last election campaign. I put the phrases in quotation marks as real Muslims I know in real life wouldn't hold truck with such medieval barbaric views but the so-called "Community Leaders" Labour promotes do. This is of increasing importance and probably second-most important now leapfrogging simple racism.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    Being upset is understandable, but be upset at yourself for poor planning, not at the world by acting like a spoiled bitch during an interview.

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    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    I mean, Hamas probably has an anti-Semitism problem too...

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    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Your "idiot" explanation doesn't explain how these so-called idiots keep on getting elected to important activist positions.
    I honestly don't know enough about the UK Labor Party to say anything about the true nature of its unholy alliance with Muslim fundamentalists and Jew-haters. I can offer some possible explanations for the situation in Sweden but before I do so I'd like you to consider one puzzling thing.

    In Sweden we currently have a large and increasingly influential party whose political representatives--on all levels--regularly get caught out endorsing--publicly and privately, through actions as well as words--neo-nazism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, borderline fascism, misogyny, extrajudicial killing of innocents and all forms of general barbarism, usually to be directed against black people, Arabs and Muslims in general, the left, women who dare speak up and of course mainstream media. Yet the number of neo-Nazis in Sweden is believed to be very small and it has been argued in many places--including this forum--that the popular support enjoyed by the Sweden Democrats is not indicative of pervasive racism or related attitudes among Swedes but rather an expression of displeasure with the establishment's mismanagement of immigration policy etc.

    I have over the past couple of years been forced to take a more nuanced view of this shameful aspect of Swedish politics but it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the matter.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    You're conflating national politics with grassroots activism. It's true that on the national level, extremist parties might be picking up the protest vote. That's simply not the case in internal elections dominated by a party's most ideologically pure supporters.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/...eorge-galloway
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    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    You're conflating national politics with grassroots activism. It's true that on the national level, extremist parties might be picking up the protest vote. That's simply not the case in internal elections dominated by a party's most ideologically pure supporters.
    I was referring to politicians at all levels down to the municipal level, so no.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Hope is the denial of reality

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    Local talking head LittleFuzzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    The Kent Anti-Racism Network (KARN): "We believe that Jackie Walker’s suspension is politically motivated. We support her unequivocally and urge the labour movement to stand with one of their most committed anti-racist campaigners."
    Really. You don't say? It's almost like it's a response to comments she made which were themselves politically motivated. Just what else is it that is or should be expected to motivate the response and/or reaction to politically-oriented speech by a politician?
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    Senior Member Flixy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Pardon me if I'm stupid but what she posted doesn't seem all that outrageous and antisemitic to me (depending on what she replied to, of course). The bit about Jews financing slave trade, maybe. And it sure is a lot more tame than all the other shit politicians say these days.


    This was amusing though:

    Keep on keepin' the beat alive!

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Flixy View Post
    Pardon me if I'm stupid but what she posted doesn't seem all that outrageous and antisemitic to me (depending on what she replied to, of course). The bit about Jews financing slave trade, maybe. And it sure is a lot more tame than all the other shit politicians say these days.
    I think it's actually an interesting question. On the face of it, her comments aren't all that troubling. Oh, I get how one could easily see latent antisemitism of the sort that abounds on the left, but it's hardly as offensive as what others have said in recent months. I think the most challenging part is when she seems to argue that the involvement of some Jews in the slave trade (which, apparently, is the 'African holocaust') makes all Jews perpetrators as well as victims... as well as comments she made seeming to conflate Jews in general with actions of the Israeli government. These are two rather pernicious linkages that can certainly lead to all sorts of nasty antisemitism, even if the statements themselves weren't all that terrible. Troubling, yes. Likely to get her suspended outside of the current environment? Not likely.

    What actually gets me far angrier - furious, actually - is the unchallenged assumption by many supporters of these various politicians that just because someone is Jewish, or of Jewish descent (as Walker claims to be), means that one is incapable of making antisemitic statements or promulgating antisemitic tropes. It's an obviously farcical argument, but somehow is used as a plausible-sounding defense. The original photo Naz Shah posted that started this whole circus was posted first by Norman Finkelstein - so, because a well-known anti-Zionist with a long history of making hyperbolic and offensive statements about Jews and the Holocaust posts a 'joke', it's somehow acceptable discourse? I've actually seen this argument from several different mainstream sources! Ditto for Walker - just because she has experienced racism or prejudice, or because she has Jewish ancestry, she gets a free pass? She's right about one thing - being a victim doesn't mean you have carte blanche.

    I strongly suspect that Labour is now coming down hard on anything with a whiff of controversy in order to put this issue behind it, which is why we're seeing such a strong reaction in the case of Walker. I think it's an attempt that will fail - first, because I have no doubt there are many skeletons in the closet of Labour activists that can be unearthed in a near-continuous stream - so much of what public figures say today is recorded in one way or another, and is increasingly searchable, that it won't be hard to find more problems. Even if the problem isn't really all that big, there's enough people involved in the party that finding appropriate members to target won't be challenging. Second, the damage is to an extent already done. British Jews have a ridiculously low opinion of the party, and this affair (combined with Corbyn's comments and other issues) is likely to further blacken the party's name in that community. The broader damage is also well-timed, with the controversy potentially affecting local elections. Third, it's too little, too late. This issue has been raised for months by a variety of high ranking members of Labour, but nothing has been done until the latest brouhaha - and even then, it was a bumbling and hesitant response. The current resolve and backbone on display is so transparently an overcompensation for earlier inaction that few people are likely to be convinced.

    I think this is a shame. It seems like there is a legitimate problem here that Labour needs to address, even if much of this controversy is noise surrounding the real issue. Making a big loud show of punishing unacceptable positions (or, at least, 'suspending pending an investigation' that I'm betting will clear most people and give at most a slap on the wrist to others) may quiet headlines eventually, but I doubt it will really fix the problem. Even if this policing helps keep the public discourse relatively free of this kind of pernicious racism, it will do little to change the views of party members or change the culture that led to such statements (in fact, it might make things worse - crackdowns on antisemitism always cause a big persecution complex - just look at the responses of people every time someone is called out for being antisemitic). I don't have any good suggestions about how to deal with the real problem, but it would be nice to see the Labour leadership do some careful thinking about this.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

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